Messy shoe collection: are your slides, stilettos, and sneakers in a jumble?

broken-sandal

French fries. Facials. A new pair of shoes. Three things you can never have too many of, which is why it was easy to find a woman willing to fling open the double doors of her closet and have her shoe collection organized. Meet Nicole Kennedy, who’s a stay-at-home mom with two daughters, Nadiyah, 3, and Sanaa, 2, and a self-proclaimed shoe-aholic. “I can’t resist a shoe sale,” she says. “I must have more than 100 pairs all over my house in boxes, plastic bins, and big piles.” We asked wardrobe consultant Jenny Gering, owner of Go Lightly in New York City, to step in and size up Nicole’s shoe situation. The outcome? A clutter-free area worth kicking up those heels over!

5 easy steps to ending shoe-closet chaos

(1) Pare down

Jenny advises taking all your shoes out of the closet (and rounding up any strays in other rooms). Then sort them into the following piles: summer, winter, everyday, and formal.

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(2) Grin and bare it

Next, remove everything else: clothes, purses, bags, and boxes. Starting from scratch makes it easier to decide which pairs should go where and which ones can go the way of Goodwill.

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(3) Ground rules

Reserve space on your closet floor for what you wear often–work shoes, Saturday sneakers. The Chrome Expandable and Stackable Shoe Rack holds 18 pairs and stretches to 46 inches; Bed Beth & Beyond, $14.99.

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(4) What’s under the bed?

Keep shoes that aren’t in season in this Clear Vinyl Divided Underbed Shoe Chest, The Container Store, $14.99. Wrap shoes in tissue paper for extra protection.

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(5) Fancy feet

Store your most precious pairs in see-through containers so they’re easy to spot when a special occasion comes along; Clear Stacking Storage Drawers, Hold Everything, $49 for a set of six.

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AFTER

Pair by pair, all of Nicole’s shoes made it back into her closet–only now she can see them! “I love that I can just reach into my closet and instantly find the pair I want to wear,” she says.

Bag it

Make finding the perfect purse for any pair of shoes a breeze by filing bags away in this Makati Newspaper Basket, The Container Store, $29.99.

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Shoe tools

For instant upkeep, have a maintenance kit handy, including shoe polish and sponges, extra laces, padded insoles, and shoe shapers. Makati Magazine Basket, The Container Store, $29.99.

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Clear view

Shoes you wear only once in a blue moon can go on a high shelf in transparent boxes.

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Favorite finds

Because Nicole has a weakness for pretty, summery flip-flops, we made room for her collection in the Linnan Closet Organizer, which attaches to a rod with a Velcro strap; Ikea, $12.95.

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Can these shoes be saved?

We asked Redbook staffers to hand their out-of-commission shoes over to New York cobbler extraordinaire Arty Zeva of Arty’s Shoe Repair. Find out which shoes lived to pound the pavement again.

too-high heel

Yes, you can lower those sky-high pumps you splurged on to walking level.

Cost: About $8 to shave off a half inch (removing any more will make the shoe unbalanced)

Time: 10 minutes

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separated sole

Got a gaping hole where a seam should be? No problem. Your favorite loafers can be resoled or “half-soled” over the bad spot.

Cost: $20 to $35

Time: A day or two

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If you’re sauntering along and your strap snaps, there’s hope. Serious shoe glue puts it back in place–for good.

Cost: About $5

Time: 5 minutes

broken-sandal

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misshapen sling

Sorry–after leather stretches too far or suffers water damage, it’s ruined. To help shoes retain their shape, use a water-resistant spray, and when they’re off your feet, slip foam shoe trees into them.

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REDBOOK INSTANT EXPERT

MUST-DO MOVERS

1 If you prefer to store your shoes in an over-the-door hanging shoe bag, put each pair in the pocket sole-to-sole to prevent scuffing.

2 If you have a deep closet with insufficient light, keep a flashlight on the floor or hang one on the door so you can quickly survey the far reaches.

3 Got shoes that haven’t been out of the house in two years? Say so long to them; they’re just hogging space. Bottomless Closet accepts donations for women in need. Find a drop-off site near you or a mailing address at www.bottomlesscloset.org.

more shoe-storage smarts

* Another way to cut the time you spend searching for the right shoe: Keep each pair in the original box and tape a Polaroid of the shoes to the outside.

* No need to buy those budget-busting fillers for your high boots. Stuffing them with ordinary tissue paper protects their shape just as well.

Step into liquid

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The weather outside couldn’t make up its mind. Was it Indian summer, with cumulus clouds blithely floating over the gilded domes of

the Tuileries gardens? Or was it a typically brisk Parisian autumn, with sudden sullen bursts of rain?

Inside, however, France’s designers sailed a clear and sure course into uncharted fashion longitudes and latitudes. It was water, water everywhere, with maritime themes abounding, and a fresh accent on fluidity of fabric and fluidity of drape.

BY THE SEASHORE

Helmut Lang and Nicolas Ghesquiere pursued parallel themes on the buoyancy of being. Both went to the navy-French or American, I’m not sure-for inspiration.

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No, neither of these sometimes swaggering auteurs swung from any mutinous masts: Both collections were terrifically wearable.

Lang’s starting point was a book on nautical knot-tying that someone gave him as a gift. From this came his beautiful wrap-and-tie blouses and siren dresses. He twisted white jersey around and around, intertwining it with heavy ropes of pearls. His dresses floated along the runway, light as gauzy linen handkerchiefs.

Lang, steady at the helm, manages season after season to fuse sportswear with the elegance of a couture hand. “You just have to kick it a bit further,” he said of his naval maneuvers. “I wanted to achieve a new angle on a traditional theme. Sailor pants should not look like sailor pants. White crocodile sandals should take on a lightness, which is why I added bias-jersey ‘wings’ on each side. I took seersucker, such a classic menswear fabric, and created something postmodern by elasticizing it.”

Lang revealed another, more surprising, inspiration. “What really got me excited was Bill Murray,” he said. “When he called up last spring to have a suit made to wear to the Oscars, for Lost in Translation, he asked for sailor pants.”

Maybe Murray was projecting ahead to his next big movie with Wes Anderson, The Life Aquatic, in which he stars as a Jacques Cousteau-type deep-sea diver?

THE DEEP

Lang’s brilliance was matched wave for wave by Nicolas Ghesquiere at Balenciaga. As he has done for the past two seasons, Ghesquiere continues to binge on the incredible archives of Cristobal Balenciaga-possibly the most intellectual and certainly the most chic couturier of the twentieth century-as he rethinks, reworks, and reintroduces designs from decades past.

Before he answered the siren song of the Balenciaga archives, Ghesquiere too often voyaged into the back of beyond (making only brief ports of call, if you will, in the land of wearability). For spring 2005, however, he cruised into smooth seas, opening his show with Liya Kebede in a remix of a 1958 black Balenciaga cocktail dress with a full, flounced skirt. To make it now, Ghesquiere belted the fullness, to emphasize a slim leg wrapped in a Xena, Warrior Princess sandal with a sturdy heel.

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“I wanted everything to be fluid,” Ghesquiere told me. “I was inspired by sailors and science-fiction heroines, mixing their wardrobes for a luxe, extremely fluid look.” He brought total freshness to his cabine, as all the tip-top models were groomed with no makeup (just soap and water, like sailors) and natural, easy, non-primped hair.

Wake up, Paris! Reveille-toi! This is the one man who could successfully launch his own couture house. It is obvious in his wonderful midshipmen’s coats done as cutaways with Lesage hand-beading. It is obvious in his rolled-up sailor shorts: the best shorts in Paris. Ghesquiere is one of the great talents of his generation.

SHE SELLS SEASHELLS

After several years in London, Sophia Kokosalaki gave her first-ever show in France. The new designer in town is a 31-year-old native of Athens, Greece. “I had to come to Paris, because it was where the action is,” said Kokosalaki, whom you might remember as the designer of the costumes for the opening pageant of this summer’s Olympic Games. Who could forget the giant, billowing blue tsunami of a dress she created for Bjork to wear while singing a song called “Oceania” after the Olympic parade of nations? “I worked out of an airport hangar,” she told me, still amazed at the achievement. “And somehow, over two years, dressed 7,000 people!”

Leaving town at the end of Paris Fashion Week, I stopped by Kokosolaki’s makeshift showroom to find out what all the excitement was about. Again, talk of flow, of float, of draped jersey. . . . “I use silk jersey,” specified the throaty, soft-spoken, honey-haired designer.

Although people are calling this whole wrap-and-twist jersey-drapery thing the “new goddess look,” Kokosolaki was not actually thinking of togas when she sat down to design spring 2005. She was thinking of the briny deep.

“I have a fish tank at home, full of fighting, predator fish,” she said. “I have to feed them twice a day, algae from tubes. I looked inside the fish tank to discover how fish move through water. How do you suggest water with every possible technique?”

Like Helmut Lang (who first experimented with fluidity and flou last winter), Kokosolaki evokes the work of Madame Gres without directly pilfering from any archives. Her silk dresses simply float.

She extended her watery theme to seashells, hand-applying corded “shells” to a black wrap dress; taking real ones and slipping them into tubes of gossamer silk jersey, to be worn as belts. One great skirt was bronze-embroidered in India to resemble the ripples of sand created when the wind pushes the tide to and fro.

“My whole ethos was disturbed water,” Kokosalaki said, pointing out the vertical ruffles and open panels on what she calls her Octopus Tentacle dress.

Well, will you forgive me if I say it? Kokosolaki is definitely making waves.

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